Discovery: Welcome this week’s Deadliest Catch chat. Our guest is Johnathan Hillstrand, captain aboard the Time Bandit, his family built, owned and operated vessel. This season, the Time Bandit was involved in a daring rescue. Ask Johnathan about the rescue and this season of fishing now.
Johnathan Hillstrand: Hi, it’s nice to be here, I look forward to your questions. Let’s get started!
Bil: How were you able to get close to the guy you saved, it seemed like a long way to go and how was he able to grab onto the life line? Also, how long can everybody stay awake and working before the risk of accidents go way up to an unacceptable level.
Johnathan Hillstrand: It’s like pulling up to a buoy, so once I located him I kept an eye on him between the waves. I lost track of him but was watching the life ring, I was going towards that and saw him again. The waves helped, putting him right up to rail level. If we would have dropped him we might not have been able to reach him in time; a minute’s delay can be the difference between life and death. As for time without sleep, it’s up to every captain to decide that. I know when I’m tired I know my guys are even more tired. I watch my guys to know when that point is.
dandigirl1: Captain, how much do you all smoke a day??
Johnathan Hillstrand: I’m down to about a pack, but I was smoking about three packs. I’m trying to quit, but we smoke a lot of cigarettes. It’s a pretty high-stress job.
CatManDo: You guys seem to like to pull pranks. What’s your favorite prank so far?
Johnathan Hillstrand: My favorite was on the roof with about 100 gallons of water. I got one of the guys, painted a big red X on the dock. He came out and asked what it was for and I hit him with the water – parted his hair right down the mmiddle. That was at the end of the water fight, it started with a glass of water at the beginning of the day.
Lori: A successful crabbing operation would require teamwork; therefore, what do you think are the top two teamwork qualities necessary to work on the Time Bandit?
Johnathan Hillstrand: That’s tough. We just work together. You have to have a good attitude, you don’t bring your problems on the boat – if you’re wife’s leaving you or whatever. Like I said, a good attitude.
Randy: Last week you saved a man’s life. Was it the first time you pulled a sailor from the sea?
Johnathan Hillstrand: No, it’s like the sixth guy I think I’ve pulled out of the water. Once I pulled three guys out of the water – had to get in a survival suit and jump in the water, and they were almost dead. It was summer time, so it was a lot warmer. These guys were in 52 degree water. The guy that owned the boat, the guy I saved, got a tattoo of my boat on his arm, Arctic Nomad. The other guy I pulled out, it was too late to save him.
You can see when Josh White comes on my boat his arms and legs work, he’s got color, and he’s moving around. Once he starts moving, he turns white, he loses control of his limbs, that’s hypothermia. He was really close to being in trouble. So, no it was not the first time.
Kazamell: How much money for a full tank of fuel to fill your boat?
Johnathan Hillstrand: It’d be about $50,000. It lasts us about a month.
fire79ct: What is the biggest catch you ever had in a season?
Johnathan Hillstrand: 134,000 pounds of king crab. We had 1.1 million pounds of opilio one season.
Terri: What is the biggest wave you have seen. Do they scare you?
Johnathan Hillstrand: A 100 foot wave, with probably 30 foot of white water on top. It rolled us on our side, it threw a microwave from the galley through the door, square through the door. You know how small you are when you’re out there, when you’re in 100 foot seas. You don’t feel too big out there.
Bil: Who sets the price for the crabs, is it a totally free market or are you at the mercy of the wholesalers?
Johnathan Hillstrand: At the mercy of the wholesalers.
calvab: Hi Johnathan — What do you do with a greenhorn who gets seasick?
Johnathan Hillstrand: That’s the worst thing. You have to take them in. They can’t drink water, and they get delirious about two days later, then you have to put them on an IV because they’re dehydrated. On the third day, you decide to take them into town and it takes us a day and a half to get to town. Usually they need medical attention by the time we get there. The seasickness is one of the worse things in the world. I get seasick.
fisherwoman: Hello, I just wanted to say that I have great respect for the job you do. I just wanted to know what kind of training do the mates have to go through to make it on your boat?
Johnathan Hillstrand: My mates are my brothers so we’ve been in the fisheries since we were kids. We usually don’t take anyone out to sea who’s never been out to sea before, usually it’s someone who’s been doing fisheries before during summertime as kids. They’re used to the hours. Somebody who has never been in fishing families are used to eight or nine hours of sleep at night.
KenJ: The man overboard didn’t go back to his ship – is this a law or tradition?
Johnathan Hillstrand: No, the only way we could send him back to his ship would have been to put him in a survival suit and put him back in the water. We didn’t want to do that. So he stayed on our boat until we got back to port.
THE_MAILMAN: How long have you been a crab fisherman?
Johnathan Hillstrand: 27 years. Right out of high school.
teishaor: When a fisherman dies during the season, do the other captains and fisherman offer a portion of their earnings to the widow?
Johnathan Hillstrand: We have P&I, it pays the families. A million dollars; I think everyone’s insured for that. I think they send them a quarter million pretty quickly. So, we have insurance that covers that.
Shipl: I’ve been watching the show and was wondering…is there more than one on watch in the wheelhouse?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Sometimes. If someone’s up there visiting or talking. I usually just designate one person. If someone hangs out up there, then they’ll miss out on their sleep but that’s their choice.
kayjayday: First off, you are awesome, totally my favorite boat. Nice save last week. What’s the difference between the derby and the IFQ and which do you prefer?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I prefer the derby. There’s not much difference because we catch them as quick as we can. We can’t pick our weather because we’re a day and a half out. If you wait for the weather to get nice because there’s a storm out there it could be 3 or 4 days with a low coming through. Also, you can stack quota on your boat and fish it for $1/pound, that’s how a lot of people get their big quotas. I just fish my own for whatever the cannery gives me. I guess I probably should join them, if you can’t beat them join them, right? And put some quota on the boat.
braddeshong: Have you kept in touch with the fisherman you saved this season? How’s he doing?
Johnathan Hillstrand: He’s doing good. He’s not fishing right now, and I’m supposed to see him next week.
emtibaby: When is the Time Bandit getting a website?
Johnathan Hillstrand: One is in the works, we’ll send you the link on the discussion board when it’s ready.
jeffh2379: What do you look for when hiring a greenhorn?
Johnathan Hillstrand: A young guy that’s been in the fishing business. I don’t really look for greenhorns.
easterngirl8: Have you ever hired a woman to work on your boat?
Johnathan Hillstrand: No.
dmrcoast: What’s your favorite crab dish ?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Just crab right out of the pot, fresh cooked.
Floyd_C: From a former fisherman to you, from what I have watched on your show, it seems to me that the colder the water, the better the chance is that the crab are in the shallows. Am I right? I fished in the tropical waters off the coast of Florida.
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes, that’s right. They like to stay at the same temperature.
kingnothing2: What is the best prank you have had pulled on you by one of the other captains?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I’d have to think about that one. I don’t really have one, they don’t mess with me because they know we’ll get them back.
sisters: Capt, are you married?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Nope.
Katie: What do you guys do in the downtime that you do have?
Johnathan Hillstrand: We do whatever we want. We don’t have nothing to do, go wherever we want. Every day is a Saturday I guess.
Taxidanzer: They always say “275 miles from Dutch Harbor.” How long in hours does it take to get out there?
Johnathan Hillstrand: A day and a half, 34 hours. A mile for us is a long way, it doesn’t seem like far to you but when you’re out on a boat, going up and down 30 foot waves, a mile’s a long way to go in the ocean.
Katie: Who’s the better captain, you or Andy? 🙂
Johnathan Hillstrand: Of course I’m going to say me! We’re both good, we’re both a little bit different. I trust Andy with the boat any day and I never thought of who’s better.
cinderella: Have you ever lived anywhere other than Alaska? Why Alaska?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I was born in Alaska, lived in New York for a year, went to high school in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and then went straight back to Alaska after high school. I have a house down here in Washington, too.
cypressqueen: Captain Jonathan, if you had to choose another profession what would it be and why?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!
sisters: How many men does it take to crew your ship?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I like a bigger crew, so I like to have at least a 5-man deck. Then I can bring one in to cook and still have four guys out there. If we have seven pots left on a string I’ll bring a guy in to cook, then we still have 4 on the deck. It saves a lot of time. When someone gets injured, he can be inside and we still have a full crew and keep fishing.
NNICU_RN: Maybe this has already been answered, but when the money is divided up between crew members, what is the captain’s cut? How much money is put back towards the boat for maintenance, new equipment, gas, etc? How much does a trip cost going out from the boat’s perspective?
Johnathan Hillstrand: The deck gets 30 percent. The boat and the brothers get the rest. Sometimes we’ll take a crew’s share also if we’re on deck. Whatever needs to be done on our boat we do it, whatever it takes to take care of that boat. The boat’s got insurance, $80,000 of insurance. It costs about $50,000 for fuel per trip. The boat’s got to gross at least that much until it makes money. So, if you want to break it down, with a $500,000 season the boat’s left with about $230,000 for maintenance and the captain pays his brothers.
STXCHICK: When the crabs are processed I noticed they snap the body in two. Do they take the meat out of there to process or is that thrown away?
Johnathan Hillstrand: That’s all the meat, there’s no meat by the head, so that’s discarded. It’s all kept, though, there’s no waste.
Kristy: When you saved the man who fell off the stacks, his captain did not seem too emotional about almost losing him. Was there more emotion off camera?
Johnathan Hillstrand: The captain bought me and the crew dinner and drinks the whole night when we got to Kodiak. Our money was no good that night.
Charlee: I noticed that Andy works the deck during red crab season and drives the boat during opilio season. Do you work the deck during opilio season or do you just stick to driving the boat part-time?
Johnathan Hillstrand: This season I got out on deck. The only reason I wasn’t there last year was because of St. Augustine the volcano where we live was shooting out for like 12 days in a row and we couldn’t fly out. That’s the first opilio season I’ve missed in 27 years.
Katie: Do you ever play music on the deck?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes. Rock ‘n roll. The young guys like the rap, but I don’t like it. Music gets you through the day.
sexynurse1: Do you guys fish for anything else? Besides all the crabs?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes. I fish salmon in the summer, with my gill netter. The boat never stops. The boat goes to Kodiak for herring, then Bristol Bay in the SE for salmon.
odiesmama: Hello Johnathan, you and your crew are true heroes, the organization and response time during the rescue was incredible. How often does the crew do these rescue drills?
Johnathan Hillstrand: We do them before every season. Usually before king crab we do them with the Coast Guard. They come on the boat and they’re a lot of help. They simulate a fire and we have to find it and put it out. It makes it more real. Nothing can prepare you for when it really happens. My legs were shaking for two hours after pulling Josh out of the water, from the emotions.
Debbie: Do you go somewhere warm when it’s not crab season? Do you ever think about moving?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes, I go somewhere warm as much as I can. I don’t like being cold. I’m going to sell my house this winter and move somewhere warm, but I’ll always live in Alaska during the summer. It’s a perfect 60-70 degrees. It’s beautiful.
mark: How many years can you expect to fish like this?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I probably have ten more years in me maybe. I don’t know. Hopefully, I’ll figure out what I want to be when I grow up by then and start doing that.
ScottMI: Finding crab seems like looking for a needle in a haystack. What are your general rules/guidelines you use?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I always cover depth on opening day. You don’t want to set all your gear in one depth. It could be real good or real blank. Usually when you cover depth you’ll run into something and then grind on what you find. Don’t listen to radio crab. They’re even harder to catch than real crab!
Saudi: How many generations of your family have been fishermen?
Johnathan Hillstrand: This is the second.
jtd: Have you wanted to take your crab dance on to the “Dancing with the Stars” TV show?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Funny! I don’t know, is it that good?
cren110: What’s your favorite band?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Probably the Steve Miller Band; can listen to their whole album.
juan: Have there ever been any knock-down drag-out fights on board any of the ships?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes. It’ll get to a point of a long season or a bad season. In town at the end of the long season there’ll be some fighting in bars. It’s just that way, it’s always been that way.
NNICU_RN: How old is the Time Bandit? How did you know this is what you wanted to do?
Johnathan Hillstrand: It’s 15 years old. And ever since I was a kid and my dad would leave us to go fishing I wanted to be one of those guys.
niceone: I loved the flower pot. Ever do it to another crew?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes, we just started doing that. We do it to the Jennifer A, we get them with three on top of the line and then on the bottom, there’s nine more coming. It’s pretty good, my stomach hurt from laughing so much.
lilysmom: How did the Time Bandit get chosen to be on the show?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Just word of mouth I guess. People talking about us. They just called us up one day.
KY_Blue: I’ll bet after all these shows you have had an increase in job applications, right?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes. When the boat’s in the harbor, people are down there.
CrabWatcher: Are the crab boats subject to OSHA oversight and regulation?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Negative.
lhiiiz: We all know from the show that being a crabber is such a dangerous job; but I was wondering is there a job out there that you think you would be afraid to do?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I’m scared of driving on the freeway, when I come home it’s culture shock. So I think you guys are crazy on the freeway. That’s pretty darned dangerous!
UGABamf: I’m in a marine biology class in college and we’ve studied crab pots. Is bycatch a big problem for the Time Bandit?
Johnathan Hillstrand: No. Any crab we discard is unharmed. And with the 9-1/2 inch mesh at the back of the pot, it’s one of the cleanest fisheries there is.
huskyfan: Has there ever been a time when you were ready to quit crabbing?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes, there’s crabbing, there’s heaven and hell – and they’re right next to each other. Yes, something will happen to make me want to quit, but it’s hard to get out of your blood. Last trip I was going to quit if one more plate of food hit me. Then we took a roll and five plates of spaghetti hit me. I quit – for about 20 minutes.
acur2321: Hi Johnathan. What kind of Harley do you ride?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I have a Dyna Wide and a Fat Boy. My Fat Boy is for speed not for cornering. I have nitrous hooked to it, it runs about 300 horsepower.
Queen_E: Being a woman, I want to know about clothes. What type of shoes do the deckhands wear so they don’t slip and slide all over the boat?
Johnathan Hillstrand: XTRATuf is the only boot. All the other boots I’ve tried have been too slippery.
BanditBuddy: What kind of car do you drive?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I’ve got Chevy trucks. I’m a Chevy man.
Cindi: How, if at all, has being on the Discovery Channel changed your life?
Johnathan Hillstrand: It’s pretty much the same. I just get recognized once in a while. It’s pretty much still the same, I’m not in town much. I stay pretty busy.
buffettfan: You mentioned your brother Dave was on the boat nine years ago with you that day you pulled the guy out of the sea that didn’t make it. Where is your brother Dave now? Does he still fish?
Johnathan Hillstrand: He works on the Slope, he’s one of the main guys. He does not fish.
Sarah_B: How old were you when you first got on a crab boat?
Johnathan Hillstrand: 8 years old, my dad let me go on my first trip with him. I was the master baiter, the bait guy. 🙂
crssqre74: When you’re on land, do you miss the sea?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Yes, I have to have water around me.
phillyphan: How do you keep in touch with loved ones while out at sea? Satellite phone? Email?
Johnathan Hillstrand: We pretty much don’t but we do have a satellite phone. It’s pretty expensive and it’s really for emergencies for the boat. You pretty much don’t want any news when you’re out there. Getting bad news is not going to do us any good out there.
brad: How much does your ship weigh??
Johnathan Hillstrand: 298 tons.
BanditBuddy: Where do you take your vacations?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Mexico, Hawaii. That’s about it. I have to get a passport!
kwitty3: Do you ever see sharks?
Johnathan Hillstrand: In the summer I do, but we don’t have sharks out crab fishing. We have killer whales and salmon shark. We catch salmon shark during the summer, I’m not sure what they do during the winter.
Oh-pilio: How did you decide that your brother Andy would captain during opilio season and you’d captain during king crab?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Good question. I started running other boats. One of my friends was ill and I ran his boat for him and Andy has been captain ever since. With the new IFQ program, he sold his boat and crab rights so I jumped back on with the boys.
Pynk: Hi. I have total respect for what you guys do! Curious, why is there never a mix of opies and king in the pots? Is there some dividing line that they never cross?
Johnathan Hillstrand: They’re not in the same place. And also, the escape panel in the back of the pot, the opilio will run out when the king crab get in the pot. They’re scared of them. We catch Bairdi and they’ll climb out of the back of the pot too when the king crab come in.
Al_Batross: With all the current stories about global warming’s environmental impact etc. have you found, in your long career, any significant changes in the amount of crab or where you find them?
Johnathan Hillstrand: I want to see global warming, I have not seen it yet. We have a glacier that has grown 5 miles in the last two years. In the Southeast opi fishing has not seen global warming but we’ve been waiting for it. Bring it on!
Discovery: Thank you for being here today to answer questions about life aboard the Time Bandit! Do you have anything you’d like to add, before we have to close?
Johnathan Hillstrand: Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you for the next opi season!